playing cards

Small rectangular cards used for playing games and sometimes for divination and conjuring. Modern cards are divided into four suits: spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. A complete pack, or deck, of cards includes 13 cards in each suit (10 numbered cards and 3 court cards—king, queen, and jack, or knave); 2 extra cards, called jokers (many times portraying a medieval jester), are often included as well. The origin of playing cards is obscure—China and India being the two most likely sources—as is the meaning of their symbols. The earliest reference to cards in Europe occurs in Italy in 1299. The 52-card French deck is now standard throughout the world, but decks with fewer cards evolved in Germany and Spain. Other suit emblems were also used (e.g., bells in Germany, cups in Spain and Italy). Seealso tarot.

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Small card that authorizes the person named on it to charge goods or services to his or her account. It differs from a debit card, with which money is automatically deducted from the bank account of the cardholder to pay for the goods or services. Credit-card use originated in the U.S. in the 1920s; early credit cards were issued by various firms (e.g., oil companies and hotel chains) for use at their outlets only. The first universal credit card, accepted by a variety of establishments, was issued by Diners' Club in 1950. Charge cards such as American Express require cardholders to pay for all purchases at the end of the billing period (usually monthly). Bank cards such as MasterCard and Visa allow customers to pay only a portion of their bill; interest accrues on the unpaid balance. Credit-card companies get revenue from annual fees and interest paid by cardholders and from fees paid by participating merchants.

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An e-card is similar to a postcard or greeting card, with the primary difference being that it is created using digital media instead of paper or other traditional materials. E-cards are made available by publishers usually on various Internet sites, where they can be sent to a recipient, usually via e-mail. It also considered more environment friendly compared to traditional paper cards. E-card businesses are considered environmentally friendly because their carbon footprint is generally much lower compared to paper card companies and because paper is not used in the end product.

E-cards are digital "content", which makes them much more versatile than traditional greeting cards. For example unlike traditional greetings, e-cards can be easily sent to many people at once or extensively personalized by the sender. Conceivably they could be saved to any computer or electronic device or even viewed on a television set, however e-card digital content has not yet progressed as far as digital video or digital audio in terms of varied usage.


Typically an e-card sender chooses from an on-line catalog of e-cards made available on a publisher's web site. After selecting a card, the sender can personalize it to various degrees by adding a message, photo, or video. Finally the sender specifies the recipient's e-mail address and the web site delivers an e-mail message to the recipient on behalf of the sender.

Printed e-cards

Some e-cards are intended to be printed out rather than sent via e-mail; to most people, however, these are not considered e-cards, but are simply home-made greeting cards. The advantage to this over a traditional greeting sometimes can be cost savings, or sometimes simply the ability to "create" something for the recipient rather than choosing a fully completed paper card.

Technological evolution

E-card technology has improved significantly since 1996, about the time of its inception. One technical aspect that has remained mostly constant is the delivery mechanism: the e-mail received by the recipient contains not the e-card itself, but an individually coded link back to the publisher's web site that displays the sender's card exactly as it was originally configured.


"Postcards" use static (non-moving) images. These were the first type of e-card in use. The recipient sees a single artistic image, accompanied by a personalized greeting message.

Flash animation

This type of e-card is based on two-dimensional vector animation controlled with a scripting language. The format is proprietary to Adobe; however, widespread usage of Adobe's software allows this type of card to be easily viewed on most of today's computers. The recipient sees an animated short usually 15–30 seconds in duration. The animation often appears to have a cartoon style due to the nature of the content, though some Flash creations can be quite sophisticated and realistic. A sound track which may contain speech or music usually accompanies the animation.

Flash animated greeting cards can include interactivity, for example, asking the viewer to choose a picture to animate; however, most Flash e-cards are designed to convey the sentiment of the sender through simple observation.

Flash animated cards are offered today by almost all major e-card publishers and are consequently the most common format used.

Mobile Devices

Eventually e-cards were offered that could be sent to mobile devices and phones. Mobile e-cards or 'Mcards' as they are more commonly known were originally created by a UK company called Sharpcards Ltd in 2004. e-cards for mobile devices may delivered via mobile phone networks WAP sites then are downloaded to the mobile then it is sent via MMS straight the recipients handset.


The greeting card metaphor was employed early in the life of the World Wide Web. In 1995, began hosting online greetings featuring nature and wildlife photos - the site was one of the first "E" named sites, so named to evoke both the electronic and environmental nature of its cards. By Valentine's Day 1996 online greetings were popular enough to be documented. That year, Valentine's cards were offered by and Sony Entertainment, among others.

In October 1999, Excite@Home bought the web site Blue Mountain Arts (which operate, an e-Card site) for $780M (which represent a price of $71 per unique monthly user). The transaction has been referenced by CNN and Business 2.0 as evidence of the Dot-com bubble. On September 13, 2001, three weeks before filing for bankruptcy on October 1, 2001, Excite@Home sold to American Greetings for $35M, or $3.23 per unique monthly user. The web site remains a large web site, primarily focused on e-cards. In June 2008, purchased the free e-card site and added it to their own greeting card site, which made them one of the largest e-card sites in the world.

Originally, most e-cards were free, by virtue of being sponsored by advertising. While free greeting cards are still the most prevalent and popular, some sites charge for either all e-cards or special premium e-cards. Others charge an annual membership which enables members to send cards for the duration of the membership.


Since many e-card companies are privy to the e-mail address of the recipient and often also the sender, and whether the recipient reads the card, spammers can use e-cards for finding active e-mail addresses.

Sending an e-card to a given recipient invariably involves giving that recipient's email address to the e-card service – a third party. As with other third-party email services (such as mailing-list companies), the operator has the chance to misuse this address. One example of misuse is if the e-card service sends advertisements to the recipient's address. Under anti-spam rules used by major ISPs, such advertisements would be spam, since the recipient never asked ("opted in") to receive them. The e-card sender as well as the service could be held responsible for the act of spamming, since while the service sent the spam, the e-card sender provided the address.

In some cases, it may be illegal for an organization or business to use an e-card service to send greetings to its customers. For instance, data privacy laws may forbid a business from disclosing information about customers to a third party – including names and email addresses.

In late June 2007 a spat of emails with the subject line "You've received a postcard from a family member!" and other similar subjects, was seen making their way across the internet. Unfortunately most of these emails contained links to malicious web sites where Javascript was used to exploit the browser in order to compromise a system, or contained a link to a malware file masquerading as an e-card.

See also


External links

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